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12 February 2013 / leggypeggy

Getting a last-minute deal to Antarctica

Ushuaia Port

The port in Ushuaia seen from the Ocean Diamond

Quite a few people have asked how we got our last-minute deal on a ship to Antarctica.

I can’t speak for anyone else or any other company, but this is what we know in relation to the quest for our good deal.

For starters, long before we left for South America, Poor John said that once we got to Ushuaia (in the very south of Argentina), that we should try to find a discounted expedition to Antarctica. He reckoned we could leave the overland trip for 10 days or so, and then rejoin the truck in Buenos Aires or beyond. He’d been researching all this online—and had found lots of info. He’s an internet novice, so his searching would not have been very in-depth.

He found that good deals were around, and seemed to link to early or late bookings.

Ushuaia Port

Another ship sets out for Antarctica. Three left the day we did

Most companies seem to offer great deals in advance. It seems to be quite easy to get 25 per cent off if you book 10 months in advance. We met people on our ship who got that kind of deal. We got the same kind of deal by booking a day or two before departure.

I’ve seen comments that trips can cost in excess of $50,000. I have no idea how long those trips last and what they include, although I suspect they must carry you across the ice and snow on a litter.

Our trip cost less than a tenth of that $50,000. Our trip lasted 10 nights and we were in a triple room. I feel honour-bound not to reveal the exact price we paid because we signed a confidentiality agreement. But I will say that throughout Ushuaia, we saw signs promoting last-minute deals for 10-day trips for $4100. We paid less, but not a lot less.

After the fact, I have to stress that the $4100 price tag is a huge bargain and not to be ignored. We got a slightly better deal, but gosh I’m glad we went at any price.

So how did we get our better price?

Poor John suggested that we walk to the port and go to the ship and ask for a deal. Not surprisingly, we got stopped in our tracks at the port entrance—sorry, but passengers and crew only.

That said, the woman in the port office told us to visit a particular travel agent. This agent was linked to Quark Expeditions—the next ship to depart—and could help us in our quest.

I don’t know if the woman at the port would have sent us to someone else if the next-departing ship was linked to another company. We saw three or four other expeditions ships coming and going from the port.

Anyway, we followed the advice of the woman at the port, and visited the agent. She offered the same $4100 price tag. We hemmed and hawed, and she said, ‘Why not make an offer.’ So we did. There had been some people in front of us and we heard what price they were paying, so offered the same. The company accepted.

Ushuaia Port

An escort back into port

Let me know if you need the agent’s address and contact details. And I’m happy to share the final price in an email, but not here. I must honour my agreement. We paid $300 more than people paid the previous year with a different company.

There a few things that all Antarctic travellers must remember.

We went in November. There are pluses and minuses for this timing. It’s:

—before the main whale migration and calving occurs

—after penguins eggs are laid but before they hatch

—before snow melts and exposes a harsher landscape

and more.

So don’t assume that getting yourself to Ushuaia is any guarantee for a great or cheap trip. We’ve heard of people who paid $27,000 for their trip and then got iced in. There are no guarantees. In the word’s of my father, ‘It’s a bit of a crap shoot.’

Let me know if you have an ‘interesting’ experience booking an Antarctic expedition.

P.S. It just occurred to me that people might think we got a discount because of the blog. Nope! I’ve never had, and never asked for, a freebie or discounted price because of the blog. I’m just having fun.

14 Comments

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  1. mickeydownunder / Feb 12 2013 10:53 am

    Well done! What a snag deal! I believe it was meant to be for you and Poor John to experiences this jaw dropping experience too! 🙂 WHOO HOO!

    Like

    • leggypeggy / Feb 12 2013 11:46 am

      Thanks Joanne. We felt so lucky to be able to go.

      Like

  2. BlazerJH / Feb 19 2013 6:10 pm

    Thanks for the blog and great info. We’re considering a trip on the Ocean Diamond in 2014. Did they have internet access on the ship and how much was the charge for internet access? I am sure it was a slow connection, just wondering if there is a connection at all in case I need to check in with my work every few days while on ship.

    Like

    • leggypeggy / Feb 19 2013 6:31 pm

      Hi Blazer
      The Ocean Diamond did have internet. It wasn’t cheap—$20 for 10MB and $100 for 100MB. They said it was a new service and they were still working out some kinks. I bet it will be faster and cheaper by 2014.

      Like

  3. stephentlim / Aug 31 2013 3:26 pm

    I’m considering going this year. Can I get your email address to ask you a few questions?

    Like

    • leggypeggy / Sep 2 2013 9:26 pm

      Hi Stephen — It would be great if you could ask your questions publicly so that others can benefit from the answers. But let me know if that doesn’t work for you.

      Like

  4. Jay Oneill / Dec 15 2013 3:12 am

    Hi leggypeggy,

    We’re heading to Ushuaia in January and I’d love to know the name of the travel agency. Where can I find your email?

    Thanks

    Jayjay

    Like

    • leggypeggy / Dec 15 2013 8:20 am

      Asking me here is even better than an email, because I can let you know publicly. We saw Daniela Gonzalez at Turismo Ushuaia, Gdor Paz 865, phone numbers 2901 436003 and 2901 436005. Their website is http://www.ushuaiaturismoevt.com.ar/web/. We travelled with Quark Expeditions, and I assume she is an agent because just ahead of us, she arrange a trip for people with a different expedition company and ship. Stop back and let me know what you are able to do.

      Like

  5. echothisecho / Oct 4 2014 11:33 pm

    How far in advance should I arrive in Ushuaia to buy a ticket for an Antarctica cruise. For example, if the ship is leaving Nov16/17, what day would you recommend that I arrive?

    Like

    • leggypeggy / Oct 5 2014 8:54 am

      The first expeditions of each year start about mid-November, and I’m guessing those first ones might be quite full. But there’s really no way to predict. We arrived on 28 November and were able to buy tickets to sail on 30 November. It seems there are quite a few different ships sailing, with varying itineraries. People wanting a last-minute deal have to take potluck. We got a 10-day expedition, but for the same price people just in front of us got the last two berths on a 13-day expedition. So good luck and let me know how it works out for you.

      Like

  6. Sonya / Nov 4 2014 1:08 am

    We would like any more info you can provide including your final price. We included our email address. Thanks!

    Like

    • leggypeggy / Nov 4 2014 6:58 am

      Hi Sonya

      Thanks for stopping by. Not sure I can give you much more information. We did our trip two years ago, and I have no idea how much things have changed. Our trip—and I think it’s safe to reveal the price so long after the journey—cost us $3800 per person for a triple cabin. If you shop around on the internet, you will see that many Antarctic expedition companies offer a 25 per cent discount to people who book at least one year in advance, so it is possible to get a good deal without waiting until the last minute.

      Last-minute deals work effectively only if you are already in Ushuaia a day or two before the ship leaves. That’s when they want to fill any empty berths. Of course, there’s always a chance there will be no empty berths.

      Good luck.

      Like

  7. JunkChuck / Nov 29 2014 4:40 pm

    Nice. I’m envious.

    Like

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